wings and things

It’s time for an inspection!

Yikes! Dina is coming out to the farm tomorrow to pick me up for lunch at a brewery not far from here. This means she will spot any residues of chaos in the house and Ming’s shed.

Okay, just to refresh your memory, Dina is the wonderful woman who helped us to declutter and reorganise the house and sheds. Her business is

So I have around 25 hours to hide do my pile of paperwork, and Ming (who isn’t home yet from gallivanting down south) has even less time to make his shed presentable.

A few weeks ago, Dina, a mutual friend and I went out for lunch, and they picked me up. I wasn’t sure if they’d come into the house or not so, in the hour before they arrived, I went into a neat-and-tidy frenzy. Well they didn’t come in so that was a bit of an anti-climax and, during lunch, I told them and Dina laughed.

But tomorrow is different. Tomorrow, as part of her service, Dina will be conducting a follow-up inspection at my request.

Now don’t get me wrong; Dina is the kindest, most uncritical decluttering expert I know (well I don’t know any others) and I am not a slob (mostly). But she is also very frank and I am a bit disorganised. This makes for a beautiful friendship but OMG I only have 24 hours left!





I wrote about Dina from Chaos to Clear in previous posts, describing how this wonder woman helped me to declutter and reorganise the spaces inside and outside this house. The process was a twice-a-week visit from Dina, over a period of several months. She/we even tackled the sheds despite the possible presence of asbestos.


During this process, Dina and I became friends. She visited Anthony with me (where we sorted a huge box of old photos and another box of old paperwork), and she even visited Anthony last week when I was away in Perth!

Dina also supported me in a face-to-face meeting with the managers at the nursing home about my desire to continue to visit various residents despite having resigned. Her presence at this meeting ensured that permission would be granted, and gave me the confidence to state that I was already a family friend of many of the residents.

Anyway, this week I suddenly found myself a bit overwhelmed again with a new accumulation of unopened mail, the dregs of clutter I was supposed to have eradicated/given away, and Ming’s stuff here and there untidying my newly tidy house. So I emailed Dina asking her to come back and help with these last jobs.

Then – the next morning – before Dina even had a chance to reply, I emailed her again to retract my request and that I could do it by myself but I needed to be accountable to someone.

Dina emailed me back saying yes and to just imagine she was there looking over my shoulder. So for two days now, I have been reporting back to her about what I’ve done, and she has been encouraging me (all of this via email). This kind of accountability has worked wonders in terms of motivation!

Depression (yes, I have it) sometimes means that the person afflicted wastes days worrying, and nights dreaming, about tasks that only take an hour or so. The fear of those tasks is, of course, irrational, but when you are in the throes of depression and/or anxiety, even the simplest of tasks can be overwhelming.

I haven’t admitted to many, including Dina, that I battle with depression but I’m sure she realises and I so appreciate her kindness and patience with me. And her incredible support beyond the call of duty!

Who would have known that when I simply googled “chaos” I would find such a beautiful friend. Thanks, Dina.



Ming and I have very different priorities which is not unusual in a mother and son relationship. This means that he has had a rather bemused, and sometimes annoyed, attitude to the last few weeks of what I have decided to call my “house to home” project. And, due to his man-of-the-house attitude we have had a fair few power wrangles.

So I didn’t tell him that I had booked a lovely couple who run a business called ‘Household heroes’ to clean the windows inside and out. When I accidentally let it slip that they were coming on Monday, he became angry and this was our rather fraught conversation:

Ming: Why didn’t you tell me?
Me: I thought we agreed last week that I was the boss.
Ming: Well, why didn’t you ask me to do the windows? I should be doing it!
Me: Because you’re working full time and actually I think I did ask you.
Ming: No you didn’t!
Me: Well, maybe I hinted that we could do it together?
Ming: Why don’t we then?
Me: So do you want me to cancel the window cleaning people and we do it ourselves tomorrow?
Ming: But tomorrow is my day off! I want to have fun!
Me: In that case, could we do it together next week?
Ming: What’s your problem with the windows anyway, Mum?
Me: They’re dirty.
Ming: So?
Me: I want them to be clean.
Ming: Why?
Me: Because they always used to be clean and now they have been dirty for three years!
Ming: So?
Me: Okay so you want me to ask you to help me with the windows but you don’t really want to and you don’t care that the windows are dirty?
Ming: I don’t care at all!
Me: In that case, I won’t cancel the window cleaners, okay?
Ming: Fine then!

Yes, Ming and I have quite a lot of these circular conversations but, in the end, we can usually stifle our different priorities in order to watch Game of Thrones in the evening.

So the window cleaners came on Monday and did the most fantastic job over nearly four hours, Dina and I decluttered the wash house at the same time, and Ming skedaddled!

The following photos are not remarkable in themselves; what is remarkable is that they are all taken through clean windows. Hurray!


The thing is, I do understand Ming’s feelings of alarm at all of this tidying up because I guess he has become used to a mother (me) who has been sort of stuck for so long that he has forgotten the lightning speed with which I used to get things done – ha!

And tonight he is making dinner for me! Hopefully this will become a new priority for the Ming – gotta love him!


Best laid plans

It has been another extraordinary couple of days with Dina, my decluttering/organising friend.

Yesterday morning we tackled the wash house. For those who don’t know, in Australia, people used to have separate-from-the-house facilities for washing clothes, and out-houses for toilet matters. To my knowledge there was never an actual out-house here but the wash house is and I have never had a problem with going out the back door and into the wash house to do the washing. What I have had a problem with, though, is that this wash house’s washing machine has had to share its space with cupboards FULL of junk miscellaneous tools, ancient bottles of cleaning fluids, pesticides, methylated spirits, even old photos and jewellery, old boxes of shoe polish and brushes, funny little tins full of buttons, a multitude of rusty nails, screws, AND the enormous mess made by animal life attracted to the water I guess – lizards, goannas, rats possums, wild cats who tend to have their babies on the roof of the wash house, visiting snakes (possibly), and several years of dead leaves blown in daily because of course there is no door. After all, it’s a wash house! I am beginning to wonder if I am the only person in the world to still think this is a normal arrangement!

Anyway, in less than two hours, Dina and I cleared the cupboards, brushed all the cobwebs out, swept the leaves out and categorised things. Tools went into one box, rubbish into another, stuff for the Ming to decide about into another and we were done!

In retrospect, I am a bit embarrassed that while Dina did most of the dirty work of de-cobwebbing and brushing the walls, I mulled over objects like old hammers and wrestled with what was rubbish and what might NOT be rubbish. But in the end we sorted the stuff and put back the useful stuff and I was able to decide between rubbish and garage sale categories very quickly.

Dina has been sending me summaries, with before-and-after photos, every week, and I have become rather addicted to reading these because of how wonderful the ‘after’ photos are! To have made so much progress so quickly in decluttering and organising this house has been a mixture of exhilarating and exhausting but not once have I shed a tear of nostalgia; instead, I am rejoicing because finally, after three years of sorrow, this house is becoming the comfortable, orderly home it always was. AND for the first time for so long, I know where everything is!

This morning (and that’s where the best-laid-plans theme comes in), Dina and I met at the nursing home at 10am with the intention of sorting all of the hundreds of photos out. A couple of situations came up that prevented us from doing this in the planned time frame but we still managed to sort photos into labelled envelopes (‘family history’; photos Ants might be interested in – old cars, dogs, cows; my own family photos of childhood; and the Ming.) The latter subject – an over-photographed little prince from 1994 to high school – have been kept in photo albums in one of Anthony’s top cupboards to scan and turn into photo books at a later date. I took these photo albums into the nursing home a few weeks ago with that purpose in mind but also to remind Ants and it has been great looking through them from time to time.

It is several weeks now since I first discovered Dina’s service and it is probably the best decision I have made for the past three difficult years to solicit her advice and help. She does this magic trick of holding various things in her hands and asking me, “What do you want to do with these things?” And she always has boxes ready for the various categories – absolutely brilliant!

Thanks again, Dina. The space you have helped me to create in this house and in my mind has helped me (and Ming too I think) to begin to live in the future and not in the past.


A sublime sense of space

Dina, from Chaos to Clear came over this morning to help Ming tackle this:


Some of the stuff in this particular area was paperwork that I either didn’t know what to do with, didn’t recognise, and didn’t even remember putting there. But most of it was Ming stuff – lego (and lots of it!) brio trains and tracks, and a whole lot of other ‘things’ from Ming’s childhood. As this was Ming’s first experience of decluttering his own stuff with Dina, it was interesting to see his initial reluctance transform into a very healthy ruthlessness and we filled four garbage bags and two boxes with rubbish to be taken to the dump – wonderful! It was also quite moving to see what he was still sentimental about:


While this was happening, I sorted all of my plastic containers, got rid of all my old cook books and only put the Aga cook books in the kitchen drawer, and put all of the paperwork we found into the filing cabinet that is now functioning as a proper filing cabinet thanks to Dina’s labels. Bliss!



For me, the sense of space that has been created is the most wonderful thing! I have never known a cupboard, shelf or drawer in this house to be empty before so I am having a lot of fun thinking about how I can use these empty spaces. Wonderful!




And this is the beauty of Dina’s service; she helps you to cull, but she also helps you to put the things you want to keep back into the new spaces. Dina is way more organised than I will probably ever be, but she has given us such wonderful help and tips and sympathy!

She has also given us her friendship and is even happy to come and help me take Anthony out on occasion. Thanks again, Dina, for your tact, efficiency, respect and empathy. You are a wonder!

We even have a box of stuff to go into the nursing home.


Cat and mouse

Okay so we don’t have any cats (the dogs would eat them) and, at the moment we don’t have any mice (thank goodness), however now that Ming is 21 he seems to think he is the cat and I am the mouse. If cats are controlling and mice are meek, then perhaps he is right.

So, while ‘the cat’ was away for a few days, Dina and I decluttered and sorted my old office (including the four-drawer filing cabinet!) the bathroom, my bedroom (which was already okayish) and went through ALL of my paperwork which is now properly filed in the filing cabinet in actual files! I am a very happy mouse.

The only drawback was that I was under strict instructions from Ming to not go to the dump with the rubbish until he had checked I wasn’t throwing anything out that he might want. This happened two weeks ago and the ute was so full it took him ages but he only found two unopened toothbrushes so I was just given a little claw pat and off I went to the dump. Now we have a second ute-load of rubbish which I plan to add to today while Ming is at work.


On his return yesterday he went through this second lot of rubbish while I was in town and when I returned in the early evening his expression was grim. My little mouse voice quavered:

Me: What have I done now?

Ming: I’m a bit hurt, Mum, but it’s okay.

Me: Did you find something on the ute that you wanted? Oh no!

Ming: You are being too ruthless. I think from now on I really need to be here to make sure you don’t do the same thing again.

Me: Just let me get out of the car and come inside.

Ming: Yes, we should talk about this.


Me (seated with a fortifying glass of wine): What did you find?

Ming: Like I said, I’m okay about it now, Mum, but it’s taken me a couple of hours to get over it.

Me: Just tell me….

Ming: You threw away my Mother’s Day card to you from last year.

Me: OMG Ming I’m so sorry! I was really careful to put all of the sentimental stuff into the sentimental box. I don’t know how I missed that. Did you retrieve it?

Ming: No point, Mum, you’d ripped it in half.

Me: What? No way. I must have thought it was something else!

Ming: Just don’t let it happen again. Please put everything you are uncertain about into a corner where I can go through it myself. I don’t trust you.

Me: Okay, darling. Sorry. Do you want a hug?

Ming: Maybe a bit later.

Cats can be cruel but mice can be mischevious so, while he is at work today I will very quickly chuck the crate of his primary school drawings onto the back of the ute. After all, even though he was a prolific artist at 5, he wasn’t Picasso.

On second thoughts maybe I should wait for him to come home and check first! In the meantime I will put all of the stuff he wants to check into the corner for Captain Cat to sort out himself.


This mouse is feeling the mirth!